Girls demand policy change

2016-09-06 06:00
Learners at Sans Souci make their feelings felt during a protest outside the school on Friday.  PHOTO: Edrea du Toit

Learners at Sans Souci make their feelings felt during a protest outside the school on Friday. PHOTO: Edrea du Toit

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While the translation of Sans Souci to English means “care free”, the famous school in Newlands has been accused of some chronic uncaring.

Since last week learners at the institution took to the streets to protest the school’s code of conduct relating to hairstyles and language with calls from former and present learners for a change in these policies.

On Friday 2 September, learners from the school were joined by supporters from other schools in the area, including Livingstone, Westerford, Groote Schuur, Claremont and Gardens Commercial.

“It’s 2016 and our children have to do this for their rights,” says a parent that did not want to be named.

“The school has been getting away with this too long because this matter of language and hair has been a problem for some time. Every year we are told that it will be dealt with an nothing happens. Well now I hope they take it more seriously.”

A memo read out by the students states: “Institutional violence and systemic racism enacted upon us by the school is not new. We have hidden our experiences in the kinks of our hair and swallowed the languages of our mothers into our throats. Mrs Murray we ask you to step aside. We have been berated by you and marginalised by you. You have enforced upon us the kind of structural violence that requires healing of the soul. You have characterised us as reminding you of the Ugandan gorillas you saw on safari and mocked our Afros. You have been the gatekeeper of the school’s oppression.”

A former learner also pointed out that there was some major flaws in the “language” policy. “What kind of school tells you that you cannot speak your home language to friends at school? And it even extends to when you leave the school and in your uniform.”

The Western Cape Education Department has also stepped in to sort out the situation.

On Friday Western Cape Minister of Education Debbie Schäfer sent a delegation to the school.

“The delegation spent the day speaking to learners, staff and former learners at the school. The discussions forms an important part of the investigation into the recent serious allegations of racism and discrimination at the school. I am extremely concerned about some shocking allegations that were brought to my attention. I am equally concerned that they say that they sent a complaint to the Department in 2011 which was seemingly not acknowledged and yielded no change.”

Schäfer adds that the WCED Safe Schools Directorate is also arranging counselling to be available for any learners who have been traumatised by the events this week and prior events.

“While I am fully aware that I do not determine schools’ codes of conduct, I was of the view that it has taken so long for the policy to change to allow for cultural differences that as long as the girls look neat there is nothing wrong with braids. I trust that this will form part of the discussion in formulating the new policy. I want to see a new code of conduct by the end of September adopted by the governing body after an inclusive process has been followed.”

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